Chilled out intellectuals

My recent wonder in my daily life, it seems, is “chilled-out intellectuals.” Being chilled out is easy, and not necessarily a good thing (apparently increases health risks because you are not reacting to stresses you receive). Being a chilled-out intellectual is another thing. Because 1. I tend to adore scholars with over-pouring passion, and they get angry almost by definition. 2. The direct communications we have through the internet increase the chance of us (em, me) getting angry at illogical arguments, phony evidence, and stupid tropes created by uncontrollable mass behavior. 3. But at the same time, in this age of epistemological (albeit fake) democracy, delivering knowledge and expressing opinions effectively, without scaring people, is not only a skill, but is the biggest responsibility for intellectuals. Even if we risk our health, we gotta learn how to communicate well. (Ignore that I just categorized myself as part of intellectuals. I know it is debatable and deniable.)

I encounter a great model recently. I was looking up Japanese podcasts for my friend who wants to learn how to speak Japanese politely but not too formally. One of the shows I found is Living Style ~暮らしの中の先生たち~ By JAPAN FM NETWORK from 4-5 years ago. It caught my eyes because it had an interview with Ueno Chizuko (and many other scholars I like). I listened to her speaking, and she is exactly what I was looking for. A chilled-out intellectual. She is funny, passionate, quite feminine, of course smart, and sounds very approachable. The show was almost entirely about her latest book on the single elderly life, but towards the end, she also summarizes what women’s studies (or feminism) is about in a few words: it means that no one but you decide who you are.

Right after this, yes IMMEDIATELY after this, the interviewer asked her the last question: “what is the best thing about Japanese women (“nihon josei”Smilie: ;) and what is not good about us?” I hit my head against the desk. Did you not hear she just said we decide who we are —?! Perhaps you prepared that question before the interview, and could not process the context on the spot. In response, Professor Ueno just casually goes, “there is no such thing as nihon josei. Everyone’s different, dear.”

She is SO COOL. She probably got the same question over and over by now. She doesn’t even bother saying “like I just said.” She did not intimidate or humiliate the interviewer or the audience. In the end, her message was a lot more acceptable than someone shouting angrily. It is her victory. I wonder achieving her level requires experiences after experiences…

Category(s): My Grad School Life

2 Responses to Chilled out intellectuals

  1. As someone teaching a course called “Japanese Women” this very semester…. well, she’s right, of course, though taken too literally it denies the value of studying a social context or identifying patterns that people develop.

  2. There is a difference between “nihon no josei” and “nihon josei” — the latter was what the interviewer wanted to ask about, as if there are good things and bad things about it — I guess it’s like the difference between having a course on “American society” (that sounds neutral) and “American people” (which sounds alarming to me).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *